20 most Googled colleges: Analytics skills or pure luck?

Duke University's Google search ranking is well below that of several small campuses.

Why is a two-year college in Georgia among the country’s most Googled campuses? It could be happy coincidence, web search experts say.

A compilation of the 20 most searched-for colleges and universities on Google was published June 15 by CampusSplash, a website offering news and advice to college students.

The top-20 list made waves in social media, but one question was asked again and again: How did a handful of tiny schools rank among higher education’s largest, most visible institutions–like the University of Florida, which ranked No. 1, or the seventh-ranked University of Arizona?

The answer could be generic names.

South University – a for-profit school in Savannah, Ga. – is the second-most Googled college in America, according to the CampusSplash rankings.

And Central College, a 130-acre private liberal arts campus of 1,650 students in Pella, Iowa, ranked No. 16 on CampusSplash’s top-20 list, just five spots behind Harvard University and one spot ahead of Duke University.

“It’s definitely exciting in the sense that we’re getting traffic from Google,” said Jacob Oyen, Central College’s online communications director, who added that appearing high in generic web searches translates into a steadily high bounce rate from the school’s home page. “Just because they Google us, it doesn’t translate into more people coming to our school.”

Generic school names can help a campus rank high in thousands of variations of Google searches, meaning prospective students and parents search for “universities in the south,” for example, see a link high in the results, and often click on it, said Allen Gannett, co-founder of CampusSplash, a Washington, D.C.-based site launched last winter.

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